should do first person? Everyone: young and old, army
and civilian, male and female.
is it? The ability to take one's self and one's audience
back to a time and place designated by the sponsor.
For whatever length of time one continues to wear clothes
of the era being portrayed.
In and around all designated grounds.
To educate the public through living history demonstrations
in a nineteenth century atmosphere.
Self-determination and self-control.
do I talk about? Anything. Anything dealing with the period
being portrayed or earlier. Leave anachronistic discussions
for the twentieth century. TV programs, modern sports
and music and the like are taboo. Family is appropriate
and a real concern , especially if you have teenage sons!
Talk about re-cent battles, "Current events,"
Politics; if all else fails, the weather. Discuss the
reasons that you are with the army: are you a soldier,
a doctor, a refugee who has fled a war torn home or village?
your feelings about your home state: is it Confederate
or Union? State like West Virginia are excellent especially
if you are Unionist and your "Mother state",
Virginia, has seceded -- how do you feel? Do you support
a new state? How do you feel about the issue of secession,
slavery, the war itself? Is it
worth your life? You can even begin plans for post war.
Where are you going to live, work, etc.?
you really teach people in first person? Most definitely.
On July 24, 1989, U.S. News and World Report published
an article listing the most popular restored villages
in America and rated them according to authenticity and
educational value. The only two to receive four stars
(the highest rating) for authenticity were Conner Prairie
and Plimouth Plantation. Conner Prairie also got four
stars for educational value. Is it mere coincidence they
are the only two where all the inhabitants speak in first
can I learn to teach people while in first person? There
are three steps to being a teacher: first, know your character.
You should be able to tell who you are, why you are here,
and how you got where you are. You should have a rough
knowledge concerning daily routine and be familiar with
next step is simple enough -- use first person pronouns,
"I, me, we, and us". Instead of saying "the
army" say "we". Instead of saying "they
would have" say "I do". But there is one
final essential ingredient to doing first person, and
all the training cannot give it to you. You alone must
provide it.... Step
three is determination and dedication. If you do not have
determination and dedication to do first person then you
are wasting your time reading this article.
I offend people? I've tried it before and the public walks
away confused. NO. To reenact means to recreate the past.
When the public enters the grounds they observe a military
camp with men and women wearing period dress. So far so
good -- the public has been transported back into the
nineteenth century. However, the problem starts when the
speech begins. I have conversed with many costumed guides
at historical sites as well as with reenactors in the
field, and I find they break character. They go from first
person to third person constantly. That is enough to confuse
anyone. Also, when the public is
conversing with you, they are close enough to see watches,
eyeglasses, modern cigarettes, Coke cans and the like.
If they see you are not serious -- they won't be either!
should I portray? It's always easiest to create your own
character. Your character can be very much like yourself.
We all know which side of the war we would have been on,
how we would have felt about secession, slavery, temperance,
women's rights, etc. Use your own name or create a new
one; do the same with family, hometown, or whatever --
your possibilities are endless. With a real character
you might be doing a great disservice. All you know about
them is what has been recorded in the annals of history,
so it's difficult to know enough of their daily like and
beliefs to properly portray them. You could also encounter
others in your travels who know something you don't about
that person. It is my feeling that it is always easiest
to portray yourself in that era. You can use records,
diaries, old letters, books and your own imagination to
create your person. How old are you? What did you do before
the war? What brought you into this conflict? What are
your duties? What are your dreams? Find good stories and
incorporate them into your own character. Again, here
your possibilities are endless -- whereas with a real
person you are very confined.
are my options as far as roles are concerned? Both men
and women have several options to choose from, ranging
from the military to the non-combatant military related,
to the civilian.
need not be soldiers! Non-combatant roles are available
in such areas as medicine, the ministry, photography and
journalism. I would like to salute those reenacting units
who encourage their members " who have gotten (their)
soldier impression developed well, to work up a correct
civilian impression." These can be local townsfolk
who want to enlist, farmers with grievances toward livestock
raids, refugees from a town, etc. Don't forget that many
men paid others to go to war for them. That might be an
interesting scenario for a civilian camp.
reenactor should have at least two characters: perhaps
two military (one Rebel and one Yankee); one military
and one civilian; or two civilian ( Yankee and Rebel).
Two on the same side is also acceptable. By having two
characters on a opposing sides you will always be able
to galvanize if the need should arise.
who want to fill a combatant role should not have feminine
facial features and should be properly bond and sound
like a man. They should also be properly researched according
to regiment and company. Non-combatant roles could include
nurse, laundress, and seam-stress. "Hooker's Division"
is fine as long as it is tasteful and the clothing is
properly researched. Abolitionists and temperance
advocates are two other strong and emotional roles for
women (and men). Women are also encouraged to develop
a role unconnected to the army. Refugees from a nearby
town is the most common perhaps, but is by no means the
only option. Further research will help you to create
just the right character for you.
few other helpful hints:
feel silly doing first person just because no one else
is doing it -- maybe they're not doing it for the same
reason. At Caesar's creek, Ohio this past December (1991),
my husband Hank and I started a conversation about how
he needed to by me a new horse. A private sitting across
the table from us began
telling us about a good horse in the artillery that he'd
"get" for us and then paint up so that no one
would recognize her. It turned into quite an entertaining
conversation (first person, of course) that would not
have existed save we initiated it.
assume that by being in first person you can't have fun.
My husband and I attended about 20 events this past season
(my first year), and it took us only three or four of
them until we discovered how easy and fun it really is.
Guyandotte, West Virginia, was an excellent example of
this. It was a Union
recruiting camp; the Rebels raided and took my husband
prisoner. All my protesting to the Confederate captain
got me an armed guard. (He and I carried on a beautiful
little scenario that, I might add, the crowd thoroughly
enjoyed.) The next day the Union came in and liberated
the town. I went around to each Union officer pleading
for him to pursue the Confederates and my husband. They
all gave the same distressing answer -- "Sorry Ma'am,
they're long gone." What was so beautiful was that
weekend Linda Trent did not exist -- the crowd knew me
as Mrs. Micky McGuire and that's what first person is
all about -- being able to portray an individual of the
Civil War, tell people who you are, why you're there,
what's going on, etc. You don't exist! You haven't been
born yet! You are among people of your great-great grandparent's
often hear arguments that some units have members all
across the nation and when they get together they like
the time to "catch up on news". That's fine,
but they can do it on Friday night or after the event
on Sunday. All day Saturday and Sunday should be dedicated
to the cause -- living history. Use newsletters, U.S.
Mail, or AT&T for "catch up".
are no "good" reasons not to do first person.
It is easy, fun, and entertaining, but most importantly
it's authentic! It doesn't take a storehouse of knowledge
-- just start out using common sense. As you catch on
you can begin adding more to your character by studying
in more depth your person's feelings
on issues and politics. There's no more excuse -- just
get out there and do it!
The Art of First Person Conversation
by: Linda Trent
copyrighted by Linda Trent and the Camp Chase Gazette
Characters* by Linda Trent
Believable Characters* by Marc McCutcheon published by
Unforgettable Characters* by Linda Seger published by
Henry Holt and
Company, Inc. 1990.
Characters: How to Build Story People* by Dwight V. Swain
Writer's Digest Books, 1990.